This article features heavy story spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2. If you haven’t finished Red Dead Redemption 2 and don’t want it ruined for you, you should close this article.
Entertainment has the strangest way of helping people deal with things. I played Red Dead Redemption 2 for a week straight with breaks built in only for eating and sleeping before its release so I could get a review up in time for its release. I loved the game to death and went back for seconds but only to digest it slower.
Since October 26th, I’ve been doing a second playthrough and I only just concluded the main story and entered the epilogue. A lot donned on me during this second time through Rockstar’s open-world epic. As I entered the sixth and final chapter of this incredibly human and timeless story, I started going through a breakup in real life.
It was rough, the worst breakup I’ve ever had. Not because there were any bad feelings between either person or anything particularly messy, it just hurt. We had a few issues, nothing severe or worthy of ending a relationship in their own right but they sparked some conflict frequently. My girlfriend didn’t want to have these little fights anymore, no matter how big or small they really were.
It hurt to hear that I had made her feel this way because we had way more good times than bad times. We had more fun than misery. We were largely very happy together but sometimes the conflict just got in the way and ruined otherwise really great days.
At the moment, I didn’t want to accept that this was it. I fought super hard to keep her but unfortunately, I just couldn’t.
To take my mind off all of it, I spent my downtime in the Wild West. There wasn’t much that appealed to me during this period. Movies weren’t really doing anything for me, I wasn’t eating really anything at all because I lost my entire appetite, but for whatever reason, Red Dead Redemption 2 was drawing me in.
In Red Dead Redemption 2’s epilogue, we gain control of John Marston several years after the events of the main story. He’s left the gang life behind and is trying to become a family man. He’s not flawless but he’s working on it. His life in hiding leads him to a line of honest work on a ranch, something he knows very little about.
He cleans up animal shit, wrangles bulls, and helps keep the property maintained. It’s a far cry from what he’s used to but it’s all in an attempt to become better. Even still, he can’t keep his old self from coming out.
When a gang harasses the owners of the ranch, John intervenes on several occasions. It continues to cause problems for everyone involved and leads John to take up arms again, much to the dismay of his unofficial wife.
She eventually gets fed up with fighting him on all of this, feeling like he’s never really going to change, and she leaves him without a final goodbye. He simply comes home one day to a note saying that she’s leaving with her son and that’s the end of that.
After I broke up with my girlfriend, I told her I’d improve myself so that these little fights would cease to happen and we could be totally happy. I told her I’d be more understanding toward her, make day to day changes to be a healthier and happier person, and give her the chance she needed to breathe and think about what she wanted.
I failed to live up to some of this directly after I had said it, not even fully realizing it myself at the moment. My biggest issue was not being understanding toward her during our relationship and instead of letting her go and have time, I kept trying to fight for her to stay. I wasn’t being understanding despite saying I would be, I was only focusing on the things I wasn’t understanding of before and not just being a more thoughtful person in general.
I didn’t want to listen, I thought we could solve it all on my own. I didn’t consider the fact that I was still being selfish even though in my mind, it was to benefit us both. I ended up pushing her even further away from me just because I couldn’t leave it alone and panicked in an attempt to save our relationship.
I couldn’t see the signs that I was letting it slip away and it was a major and abrupt surprise to me, just like it was for John in Red Dead Redemption 2. You think you have more time, you think that everything is ok and then suddenly, it’s not.
After realizing Abigail has left him, John takes it upon himself to keep working to take his mind off of it. Several months go by and he’s trying to gather the resources needed to take out a bank loan so he can buy an empty lot of property to build his own ranch on. After a number of issues and bumps in the road, he builds a house from scratch by hand with two old friends.
He’s not building it for himself, he’s building it for his family in hopes they’ll come back to him and see how he’s changed. Abigail returns with Jack and John realizes he doesn’t have any more room for error. He has to truly be the man he set out to be.
He takes Abigail on a romantic date, showing her how he’s putting her first, how he’s putting his reckless side aside to cater to her. She questions everything about it because it’s pretty out of character for him but at the end, he proposes to her and it finally makes sense to her. She tearfully accepts his proposal.
Of course, John does step back out into the line of fire one last time to get revenge on the people who tore his old crime family apart but it’s something he needs to do for closure. The game ends with the two living a happy life on their new ranch but the law is still hunting for him and they do find him but leave him alone for the time being.
We know that the end of Red Dead Redemption 2 leads into the events of the first game where he ends up having to work for the law to gain freedom but it’s all in service of his family. He doesn’t want to go back to killing and hurting people, he’s only doing it to get his family back.
Playing all of this, it helped me realize who I need to be. I tried so hard to fight for my girlfriend and prove that I was going to change that I wasn’t focused on actually changing myself yet. It made me have a revelation about myself, I shouldn’t change just because I want to be better for her. I should change because I want to be a better man for both her AND myself.
There’s a huge theme throughout Red Dead Redemption 2 about becoming a better person. That’s where Arthur Morgan’s arc leads him before he dies, he dies trying to become a better man even though he knows its too late for complete and total salvation. That doesn’t mean he can’t try and use the time he has left to impact others and lead a better life.
Perhaps it’s silly that it took a video game to realize this but I think it’s better to realize it somehow than not at all. It allowed me to step out of myself and see my own situation from an outside perspective.
Am I going to go and build a house with my bare hands to impress my ex-girlfriend? No, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Am I going to work on becoming a better man and a better boyfriend, whether that’s for her or someone else? Yes, absolutely. Do I hope that maybe I can try again with her like John and Abigail? That would be a wonderful fantasy but not one I’m counting on.
All I can say with absolute certainty is that Red Dead Redemption 2 helped me through one of the worst periods of my life. I’m still not fully out of that period yet but it helped me champion the darkness and come out with a new understanding. It’s never too late to change yourself for the better and try again.
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